Happy Black History Month, dear readers! This month has always meant a lot to me on a personal level. Being a Black person, I’ve witnessed erasure of our achievements, dismissal of our problems, and omissions of us from opportunities. These types of slights often expand into nerd media, where representation is already scant. In that spirit, I want to discuss an issue that makes the existing representation troubling. We need to stop giving non-human characters Black traits to code them as “other”, as alien from the protagonist and audience. These characters, rather than just being another character in a group, are specifically different or strange.
The Hamilton Mixtape has finally come out after much anticipation! I thoroughly enjoyed the musical’s soundtrack and what performances I could see via broadcasts and award shows. So a collection of musicians covering songs from the original and creating new songs that used the originals as starting blocks really intrigued me. The Mixtape is fascinating as an adaptation, as a musical album, and in its culturally progressive themes, and I thought it was a fun overlap of the camp of Broadway and the vulnerability of hip-hop and sincere pop music.
2015 so far has been an interesting year in nerdy media. We’ve had amazing entries that were expected such as Avengers 2 and Metal Gear Solid V, as well as surprises such as Splatoon and Mad Max: Fury Road. These second two proved that diversity can push a franchise. Inclusion and proper treatment of women and girls can really boost a work into the public eye and enrich its quality. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that nerd culture has a ways to go in terms of racial diversity. There have been controversies about the lack of color in Mad Max, Splatoon, and the Witcher 3, among other titles. Lack of inclusion, while getting better, is nothing new; it’s a relatively simple concept that needs to be fixed, but it isn’t the one I want to discuss today. No, I want to highlight a more nebulous problem. I want to discuss the cavalier treatment of Black identity and culture.
This month has been exhausting. Black History Month always brings pushback: talk of a Black Spider-Man has resurfaced with all the associated bigotry, and current events have been as bad as always. It’s been really emotionally taxing, so I want to talk about something a little lighter and upbeat: nerd-inspired music. (Occasional NSFW language follows.)
I love music and it has often been a comfort to me; I’ve also found value and comfort in nerdy things. So, mixing these two concepts together is the perfect product for me. This week’s Web Crush Wednesday, Adam Warrock, makes self-proclaimed “Overly Enthusiastic Hip-Hop” about pop culture and general nerdy media.
A long time ago, in a galaxy somewhere near South Central Pennsylvania, I promised my gentle readers updates on Holler if Ya Hear Me, the upcoming musical based on the music of Tupac Shakur. The musical, directed by the esteemed Kenny Leon (the director of Broadway’s Raisin in the Sun, currently showing), will not engage with the story of Tupac’s life, but rather will use his music to tell a different story. Songs such as “California Love” and “Keep Ya Head Up” will score the story of two friends growing up in a low-income neighborhood in the Midwest. As the press notes mention, “through the poetry of one of the 20th century’s most influential and culturally prominent voices, [Holler if Ya Hear Me] will give a window into realities of the streets still relevant today”.
MyMusic is an interactive online source of entertainment brought to us by The Fine Bros. The primary location for this entertainment is YouTube, where four videos are uploaded weekly: Mondays- LIVE show, Wednesdays- Music News, Fridays- Q&A, and Sundays- Sitcom Webseries.
I found out about this project from my past Web Crush, Grace Helbig, who plays one of the characters in the webseries. It chronicles a budding music production company staffed by personified stereotypes of music fans. Every worker is identified only by the style of music they like and behaves as broadly-drawn caricatures of these personalities. For example, the company was founded by Indie, a hipster who can’t stand anything mainstream and prides himself on loving and understanding the obscure. Grace plays Idol, the head of social media outreach who loves anything popular on the radio. Other staffers include Metal, Hip Hop, Techno, Dubstep, Scene, and Intern 2 (Intern 2 likes a little bit of everything and infuriates Indie for not being able to be put in a box and defined by preconceived notions so he’s the group punching bag).
At first I only watched the weekly webseries on Sundays and enjoyed it, but once I subscribed to the channel I really got much more into the whole project. The weekday shows are just as entertaining as the Sunday webisodes and the inclusion of fans and special guests keeps the show fresh and interesting. I’m always at work during the live shows, unfortunately, but I watch them later and it’s pretty fun seeing the cast respond to people as they comment/tweet the show.
The weekly series is very fun and I especially love Techno and Dubstep who, though sometimes pushed into the background of the show, have a beautiful friendship and are always enjoyable. The show honestly got a bit drab for me after a while, though. I know it was all for comedy but a show populated entirely by shallow stereotypes can only be interesting for so long. Thankfully, one of the team members was revealed to actually be a poser, only pretending to be a walking stereotype in order to hold on to the job at the company and appease Indie, and this character’s storyline has instantly become more engaging and the show has picked up since.
I’m tuning in weekly, will you?
If you need further convincing, I’ll just mention that Felicia Day guest starred.